On The Air August 2023


Portland-Hillsboro has several flight schools on the field, and one in particular heavily recruits students from Asia who are not all fluent in English.

Overheard last week:

Portland Departure: “Skyhawk 1234, ident and say destination.”

Skyhawk 1234: “Skyhawk 1234.”

A few moments later…

Portland Departure: “Skyhawk 1234, ident please.”

Skyhawk 1234: “I am Skyhawk 1234.”

Portland Departure: “Skyhawk 1234 (with quite a bit more emphasis) IDENT.”

Skyhawk 1234: “Skyhawk 1234.”

We switched back to tower before finding out how that ended up for the student. But the controller certainly needed a beer.

[Name withheld by request] Beaverton, Oregon

I was flying practice approaches to Galveston, Texas, early one morning, and Approach Control was surprisingly quiet on the radio—not at all typical for the usually busy airspace around Houston.

The approach controller sounded like a young woman, and she was having difficulty getting my tail number straight, often switching the last two letters. You could sense her frustration every time she had to correct herself.

Since the airwaves were particularly quiet, I blurted out: “Just picture me as an old guy with two daughters (true) … Niner Bravo Pappa.”

I got a good laugh out of her, and not once after that did she get it wrong.

Bill Colton
Houston, Texas

Returning to Palo Alto airport from the East on a short flight through the busy Bay Area airspace, I was admiring Mount Diablo at 4500 feet when NORCAL instructed, “Skylane XYZ hold your current position.”

I was extremely tempted to respond “NORCAL, Skylane XYZ commencing ‘Pugachev’s cobra’ maneuver,” but said instead “Skylane XYZ right 360s.”

The humble Skylane goes slow and steady but cannot hover! Maybe one day.

Ivo Linev
Berkeley, California

I was flying into Dulles a couple of years ago with my single-engine Comanche. Traffic was landing to the north and I touched down and exited in the first third of the 12,000 foot runway. I contacted Ground and was asked where I was parking.

N5109P: “Jet Aviation at Zulu 2.”

Dulles Ground: “N5109P turn left on Zulu. Taxi Zulu, Zulu 2 to Jet Aviation.”

I acknowledged, taxied forward, and turned left on Zulu. A moment later:

Dulles Ground: “Delta 123, taxi to Runway 30 via Yankee, Yankee 11, hold short of Zulu. I’ve got a little one coming north.”

Evan Smith
Mechanicsville, Virginia

I recently had a long flight from Somerset, New Jersey, to Houston Southwest Texas. I don’t remember which approach controller it was, but when I got handed off to him and I checked in, he acknowledged, “Malibu 7MX, XYZ approach, altimeter James Bond.”

I wasn’t sure what I heard so I said, “Say again?”

My brain finally processed it before finishing those two words, so I laughed and followed up with “3-0-0-7, 7MX.”

Sree Velicheti
Warren, New Jersey

My wife and I were on a PALS flight (PALS = Patient Airlift Services) and we had an Afghanistan war refugee and her helper-dog, Oscar, whom we took to Columbus, Ohio.

Approaching Columbus information Oscar was current on ATIS. I told the controller, “We have Oscar.”

After we landed the lady whom Oscar was helping asked me, “Why did you need to tell him you had Oscar?”

Brian Gately
Brooklyn, New York


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